San Jose: Glittering Ambulong Cave
From Buri Island (aka Grace Island) we took a boat going to Ambulong proper. The boat is just small enough to accommodate seven of us but the trip took more than 30 minutes. The high waves brought by the Amihan made boating trip difficult.
From the shore we walked more than 200 meters to the mountain. We were accompanied by Mang Pulis, the caretaker and guide of the cave. There are large coral rocks at the base of the mountain that needs to be climbed. The cave has no marker except for the painted sign “bago magbaba magbayad muna” (pay before going down). We climbed it and at the top is a small hole and there’s a stairway going down. This served as the entrance as well as the only way natural light can go in.
After wearing our headlamps and bringing our large flashlights, we descended to the dark cave. At the entrance the ceiling is so low that we can hit our head but as we went deeper the cave becomes larger.
We’re amazed with the formations of different shapes and sizes of stalactites, stalagmites and columns. We’re like in the set of a sci-fi movie because of its alien-like landscape.
Aside from bats we also saw a cave spider thriving here. But what’s more noticeable is the white fine crystals glittering especially when shone by light. It is like fine sequins covering the rock formations. We also slowly noticed that we are bathing on our own sweat because of lack of air circulation.
After more than 50 meters spelunking we reached the descending cistern of the cave. The waters are cold and clear when shone by light.
We can only do spelunking up to this point as the way beyond are still unchartered. After resting for a while we went back to where we came from.
According to Lola Inocencia, 85 years old and oldest resident, the said cave served as a natural evacuation center during the Japanese occupation. As a teenager during that time, she witnessed the horrors made by the Japanese to her neighbors. She also saw some naval warships and airplanes endlessly firing throughout the war. Despite having difficulty hearing and speaking she continued on her tale. Her face reflects the fear and agony that is still almost fresh as if it happened just yesterday.
DASH OF HISTORY
During the Japanese occupation, although the soldiers rarely visited Ambulong, the residents still hid in the forests and caves around the island. To survive they also ate nami, a kind of rootcrop, and yuro, the dried juice from the trunk of buri palms.
On December 15, 1944, the Allied forces landed in San Jose from Leyte. Landing sea crafts counting to almost 120 filled the Mindoro Straits, from Caminawit to San Agustin, as the warplanes of the Liberation forces filled the skies of San Jose.
I noticed at some parts of the cave near the cistern some bottles of wine, as well as cut stalactites and stalagmites, implying that this place has already been desecrated. But there are still no signs of carvings or other kinds of graffiti. I hope this becomes an official protected site as soon as possible.
PhP10 per person (includes guide and headlight)
- From Caminawit Port take a boat going to Ambulong (there are only two trips per day). Fare is PhP30.
- From Ambulong Pier, ask the residents for the cave, or go straight to Barangay Hall of the said island.
Or just look for the cave’s caretaker Mang Pulis.
- Bring powerful lamp or flashlight to see its full glory.
- Socialize with the residents especially the elderly, surely they have hidden stories to tell you.